The Journey of Buddhism from Mongolia to the Himalayas

in started in the sixth century. It was transmitted by the great teacher of for the next eight years. begins with . The Bon of Tibet was animistic and shamanistic, and of it live on today, to one degree or another, in Buddhism.

Introduction of Buddhism In Tibet

When Buddhism was introduced into Tibet in the seventh century under , it was apparently centered in the royal court and did not, at first, put down deep roots.

Almost a century passed until it found favor again under , who with the aid of strengthened its position. But even after that “first diffusion,” the new religion lost , and it was not until the “second diffusion” of Buddhism in the ninth and tenth centuries that it became firmly and finally established as the majority religion of Tibet.

It never recovered from official persecution that continues to this day. In India, Muslim invaders began centuries of persecution that, by the fifteenth century, all but destroyed Buddhism in its homeland. Tibet remained the great repository of Buddhist tradition until the Chinese invasion of 1959.

Due to the efforts of the , and the benign patronage of the modern Indian nation, the great monastic universities, and institutions of Buddhism have now been re-established in their homeland of India.

Religion permeates all aspects of daily life for the average Tibetan. Typical Tibetan families engage in observances at the family shrine, and prayers are recited throughout the day. Even ordinary people go on retreats for and long pilgrimages to distant holy places, such as the seat of (the of , who is manifested by the Dalai of Tibet), formerly the in , now in , India, where the current Dalai lives. Religious education begins at an early age.

Children’s heroes are the and the great such as Avalokiteshvara and , and the great saints like , Padmasambhava, , , and Ra . Many fascinating stories, filled with magic and adventure, tell of powerful holy men pitting themselves against demons, evil monsters, and wicked kings. Tibetans adhere closely to Buddhism, and many also honor the indigenous Bön religion that was strongly influenced and ultimately transformed by Buddhism.

Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana

Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana is considered one of the greatest figures of classical Buddhism and one of the greatest Indian Buddhist of all , but it is his in reviving the pure in Tibet that truly sets him apart.

Through his immense efforts in spreading Buddha’s lineage in the Land of Snows, the Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism was eventually founded by his heart disciple, Dromtonpa.

also composed his seminal masterpiece, the Bodhipathapradipa or  for the Path to , which lay the foundations for centuries of , , attainments, and realizations based on this graded approach to the Buddha’s 84,000 . It would also become the backbone of the Kadampa and later Gelugpa traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

The story of his life continues to inspire many Buddhists to persevere in their spiritual journeys more than nine centuries after his death.

During the reign of King Trisong Detsen, which began about 755 CE, Buddhism became the official religion of the . The King also invited famous Buddhist teachers such as Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava to Tibet.

Padmasambhava, remembered by Tibetans as (“Precious Master”), was an Indian master of whose influence on the development of Tibetan Buddhism is incalculable. He is credited with building , the first in Tibet, in the late 8th century.

, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, claims as its patriarch. According to legend, when Guru Rinpoche arrived in Tibet he pacified the Bon demons and made them protectors of the .


In 836 , a supporter of Buddhism died. His half-brother Langdarma became the new King of Tibet. Langdarma suppressed Buddhism and re-established Bon as the official religion of Tibet. In 842, Langdarma was assassinated by a . Rule of Tibet was divided between Langdarma’s two sons. However, in the centuries that followed Tibet disintegrated into many small kingdoms.

While Tibet was plunged into chaos, there were developments in India that would be keenly important to Tibetan Buddhism. The Indian sage (989-1069) developed a system of meditation and practice called Mahamudra.

Mahamudra is, very simply, a methodology for understanding the intimate relationship between and reality. Tilopa transmitted the teachings of Mahamudra to his disciple, another Indian sage named (1016-1100).

Chokyi Lodro (1012-1097) was a Tibetan who traveled to India and studied with Naropa. After years of study, Marpa has declared a dharma heir of Naropa.

He returned to Tibet, bringing with him Buddhist in that Marpa translated into Tibetan. Hence, is he called “Marpa the Translator.”Marpa’s most famous student was Milarepa (1040-1123), who is remembered especially for his beautiful songs and poems. One of Milarepa’s students, (1079-1153), founded the  school, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Second Dissemination

The great Dipamkara Shrijnana Atisha (ca. 980-1052) came to Tibet by invitation of King Jangchubwo. At the request of the King, Atisha wrote a book for the king’s subjects called Byang-chub lam-gyi sgron-ma, or “Lamp to the Path of Enlightenment.”

Although Tibet was still politically fragmented, Atisha’s arrival in Tibet in 1042 marked the beginning of what is called the “Second Dissemination” of Buddhism in Tibet. Through Atisha’s teachings and writings, Buddhism once again became the main religion of the people of Tibet.

In 1073, Khon Konchok Gyelpo (1034-l 102) built in southern Tibet. His son and successor, Kunga Nyingpo, founded the Sakya sect, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1207, Mongol armies invaded and occupied Tibet. In 1244, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen (1182-1251), a Sakya master was invited to Mongolia by Godan Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Through Sakya Pandita’s teachings, Godon Khan became a Buddhist. In 1249, Sakya Pandita was appointed Viceroy of Tibet by the .

In 1253, Phagba (1235-1280) succeeded Sakya Pandita at the Mongol court. Phagba became a religious teacher to Godan Khan’s famous successor, Kublai Khan. In 1260, Kublai Khan named Phagpa the of Tibet. Tibet would be ruled by a succession of Sakya lamas until 1358 when central Tibet came under the control of the Kagyu sect.

The Fourth School:

The last of the four great schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Gelug school, was founded by (1357-1419), one of Tibet’s greatest scholars. The first Gelug monastery, Ganden, was founded by Tsongkhapa in 1409.

The third head lama of the Gelug school, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588) converted the Mongol leader to Buddhism. It is commonly believed that Altan Khan originated the title Dalai Lama, meaning “Ocean of ,” in 1578 to give to Sonam Gyatso. Others point out that since gyatso is Tibetan for “ocean,” the title “Dalai Lama” simply might have been a Mongol translation of Sonam Gyatso’s name—Lama Gyatso.

In any event, “Dalai Lama” became the title of the highest-ranking lama of the Gelug school. Since Sonam Gyatso was the third lama in that lineage, he became the . The first two Dalai Lamas received the title posthumously.

It was the , Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682), who first became ruler of all Tibet. The “Great Fifth” formed a military alliance with the Mongol leader Gushri Khan. When two other Mongol chiefs and the ruler of Kang, an ancient kingdom of central , invaded Tibet, Gushri Khan routed them and declared himself king of Tibet. In 1642, Gushri Khan recognized the 5th Dalai Lama as the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.

The succeeding Dalai Lamas and their regents remained the chief administrators of Tibet until the invasion of Tibet by in 1950 and the exile of the 14th Dalai Lamain 1959.


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About dipakdaspaswan

Namaste! I am Dipak Paswan from Nepal. I love to write articles about Asian religion and cultures. If you like this post or have any question please leave me a comment or use the contact page to reach me.

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